Currently, the early voting period is scheduled to run Oct. 19-30 followed by Election Day on Nov. 3. According to the release, Hollins has requested the early voting period begin no later than Oct. 13 to give voters more options on when to vote, reducing the possibility of contracting COVID-19 at crowded vote centers.
Abbott previously extended the early voting period for the July primary runoffs, citing similar concerns. At the time of the request, Harris County Public Health reported 59,924 total confirmed coronavirus cases countywide, including 38,674 active cases, 19,674 recoveries and 575 deaths.
"Harris County is surging in confirmed COVID-19 cases, and my office is doing the hard work of preparing for a November election under pandemic conditions," Hollins said in a statement. "No voter should have to make the choice between their health and exercising their fundamental right to vote. We know voting by mail is the safest way to vote—voting early in person is the next safest method. Extending the early voting period is the right thing to do so that voters can make their voices heard at the polls safely and conveniently."
According to the release, 154,313 Harris County voters opted to vote early or by mail in the July primary runoff election.
In addition to encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting and voting by mail, Hollins said his office is exploring every possible opportunity to enhance voter safety at the polls in preparation for anticipated record voter turnout amid a pandemic this November. One of those opportunities includes drive-thru voting, which Hollins' office piloted on the last day of early voting for the July primary runoff, July 10, at the voting center located at Houston Community College West Loop—a first in Texas history.
"My number one priority is to keep voters and poll workers safe," Hollins said in a statement. "The feedback we received from the drive-thru voting pilot proves that voters felt safe exercising their right to vote and that it was an easy and efficient alternative to going inside a voting center. We are exploring options to expand this program for the November General Election at select locations as another method of voting during COVID-19."
According to a July 22 news release from Hollins' office, of the 200 voters who utilized the drive-thru voting site, 141 responded to an optional survey overwhelmingly in favor of using the new voting method. To view the anonymous survey results, click here.